Ocean Springs Apartment Trying To Fix Fire Alarm Problem

Owners of a senior citizens apartment building are working with a company to get the 13-story structure's fire alarm system operating. Earlier this week, the Ocean Springs Fire Department could not hold a fire drill at the Villa Maria Apartments because of the alarm failure.

The Villa Maria is owned by the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi and managed by Sun States Management. It is the tallest building in Ocean Springs and one that fire department officials say has been a concern for more than 30 years.

Fire Chief Mark Hare said the building was constructed in the 1970s and therefore a commercial fire alarm system has not been required by law. The Villa has battery-operated smoke alarms in each room and emergency pull alarms on each end of all the floors.

It was the pull alarm that failed, Hare said. While the alarm sounded individually on each floor, the part of the system that alerted residents on other floors did not.

"They (apartment management) were told that this could not continue or other action would be taken by the fire department,'' Hare said.

Penalties for not having a working fire alarm system can range from receiving "a need to correct notice'' to closing a building.

"They have been cooperative and seem to be working toward making the repairs,'' he said. "But we would really like to see a better system in there immediately; it would be safer for the residents and the fireman.''

Franklin Kyle of Sun States Management said that the fire alarm system was to be worked on months ago.

"There must have been some kind of misunderstanding with the alarm company that caused the delay,'' he said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)